Cuphead: The Classic Platformer with a Twist

Cuphead is an indie video game developed and published by StudioMDHR for the Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and Nintendo Switch in 2017. The game features the titular character, Cuphead, and his brother, Mugman, as they traverse through a series of unique and challenging levels in the surreal world of Inkwell Isle. Cuphead is a classic 2D platformer, but what sets it apart is its hand-drawn animation, old-school jazz-inspired soundtrack, and notoriously difficult gameplay.

The Story of Cuphead

The story of Cuphead is set in the 1930s and follows the titular character and his brother as they stumble upon a casino run by the evil Devil. After Cuphead and Mugman gamble away their souls in a game of craps, they strike a deal with the Devil to collect the souls of other beings in Inkwell Isle who have also made deals with the Devil to save their own souls. The game’s narrative is presented in a series of cutscenes and vignettes that take place between levels, each one featuring different characters in the world of Inkwell Isle. While the story may seem simple at first, the game’s unique art style and animation bring it to life in such a way that it feels like you’re playing through a classic cartoon.

The Art Style and Animation

The art style and animation in Cuphead are undoubtedly what make the game stand out. Every frame of animation in the game was hand-drawn using traditional techniques from the 1930s, including cel animation and watercolor backgrounds. Each level in the game is like a work of art, with vibrant colors and bold lines that bring to mind classic animated films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Betty Boop. The attention to detail in the characters and environments is astounding, and it feels like every element of the game has been carefully crafted to create a cohesive and immersive world.

The Soundtrack

The music in Cuphead is just as important as the visuals. The soundtrack was composed by Kris Maddigan, who created a jazz-inspired score that perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of the game. Each level has its own unique track, and while they all have a similar jazzy feel, they each have their own distinctive sound and rhythm. The music is so memorable that you’ll find yourself humming the various tunes long after you’ve stopped playing the game.

Gameplay and Difficulty

Despite its charming aesthetics, Cuphead is not an easy game. The gameplay is similar to classic 2D platformers like Mega Man and Contra, with Cuphead and Mugman running, jumping, and shooting their way through various levels filled with enemies and obstacles. However, what sets Cuphead apart is its punishing difficulty. The game is designed to be challenging, with each level requiring precise timing and skilled maneuvering to complete. It’s not uncommon to die dozens of times on a single level, but the game’s fair checkpoint system means that you’re never too far from where you left off. The difficulty of the game is part of its appeal, as it provides a true sense of accomplishment when you finally beat a particularly challenging level.

Boss Battles

One of the highlights of Cuphead is its boss battles. Each boss in the game is like a mini-level in itself, requiring you to learn their attack patterns and react quickly to avoid their attacks. The bosses in Cuphead are some of the most memorable and challenging in recent video game history, featuring everything from a giant carrot to a demonic piano. Each boss has its own unique abilities and movements, and defeating them requires a combination of skill and strategy.

Co-op Mode

Cuphead also features a co-op mode that allows you to team up with a friend and tackle the game’s levels together. In co-op mode, each player controls either Cuphead or Mugman, and the two characters can combine their attacks to take on enemies and bosses. While the game is still challenging in co-op mode, having a partner to help you can make the game a bit more manageable.

The Legacy of Cuphead

Since its release in 2017, Cuphead has become a beloved classic among gamers. Its unique combination of art style, music, and challenging gameplay has earned it numerous accolades, including several awards and nominations at the Game Awards. The success of Cuphead has also inspired other indie game developers to create similar games with an emphasis on unique art styles and old-school gameplay. StudioMDHR has even announced that a Cuphead animated series is currently in development for Netflix.


Cuphead is a game that truly deserves to be called a modern classic. Its combination of gorgeous hand-drawn art, jazzy soundtrack, and punishing difficulty make it a game that is challenging yet rewarding. While it may not be for everyone due to its difficulty, those who persevere will be rewarded with one of the most memorable gaming experiences in recent memory.

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